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I am thrilled that our passionfruit vine is now dropping gorgeous, purple fruit. They sat on the vine all winter, green and dormant – but I am glad to say with the onset of spring, things have changed.
I love passionfruit, and think they are an easy to grow plant that everyone should have. I mean – who doesn’t enjoy passionfruit? They are expensive to buy in the shops, can be preserved (in the unlikely event you have surplus), and can turn simple desserts into a gourmet experience.
Originating from the American tropic and sub-tropic regions, Australia is one of the few countries to have commercially developed this crop. Apparently to Europeans they are seen as exotic and very rare!
There are many different varieties of passion vines available. If you love them & have space - grow as many as possible to enjoy a longer harvest! While it's worth planting Passionfruit anytime - Autumn is a great time to put them in the ground. Young plants will establish over spring & summer. They are frost tender (particularly as young plants) but once established, frost may set them back but not kill them entirely.Some varieties are grafted, but not all. The most common grafted is Nellie Kellie – make sure the vigorous rootstock does not shoot, as this will reduce growth from the fruiting part of the plant.
They can be a little fussy to grow; but if you have them in the right spot and treat them well, you will know about it – they are very vigorous vines that need a good trellis for support. (It is not uncommon for the grafted part to die off; and then the rootstock can and will keep emerging throughout your garden FOR YEARS - so if this is a problem, look for a non-grafted variety.)
A great one for Perth is the Sunshine Special. These are normally seed or cutting grown, and a highly productive plant. There's also Panama Red and Panama Yellow for a few other options.
Banana Passionfruit is different again - a bit less commonly grown, and not as popular.
Whatever variety you choose, allow each vine at least three metres to spread at maturity, and put it in a sunny spot. They fruit on new growth, so a prune back each spring by about a third to help keep the vine to a manageable size.
Our Sunshine Special gives us two crops - a small winter crop, and the larger summer crop. Winter crops are never as sweet in my experience.
Passionfruit vines don’t have a long life – 6 - 8 years is considered a good run. So the trick is to have a succession plan in place with new vines coming on. Unfortunately they have a habit of dropping dead quickly – so if a vine is on the decline, there’s usually not much that can be done.
They tend to be susceptible to root rot disease; so good drainage is essential. Being a tropical plant, think of rich alluvial, volcanic soil. Try to duplicate these growing conditions - rich in organic matter but free draining. Passionfruit need lots of water over our summers. If your fruit looks good, but has very little inside once you cut it open – this is generally a result of insufficient watering during fruit development. I use Greywater on my thirsty passionfruit vine over summer. Stressed plants may also drop fruit, so keep up the water! Fungal problems can be an issue in areas of high humidity, but providing the plant is in an open, sunny position, in Perth this is less likely to be a problem. If possible, avoid overhead watering.
Pests can include scale, mealy bug, passionfruit vine hopper (thankfully I’ve never come across one of these) and grasshoppers. Fruit fly can be an issue but generally fruit are too thick skinned for them to get through and lay eggs into the pulp. Snails and slaters can damage young vines. Rats & possums can be a problem. We had possums eat the flowers (so fruit didn't even get a chance to set) - we overcame this by installing a solar, motion activated spotlight. Unfortunately rats aren't as timid.
The vines are shallow rooted so don’t like disturbance or root competition from surrounding grasses or other plants. Try to keep an area of at least a metre around its base free of weeds, topped up regularly with compost or manure (don’t forget plenty of potash), and well mulched over summer to keep roots cool. Passionfruit are hungry plants - feed regularly, water regularly in summer for best results. Because the vines have a large root system, they don't tend to do well in pots. You may have success with large planters; but make sure you keep up the soil fertility and moisture - they won't be able to scavenge nutrients so you must provide them regular top ups.
Hopefully if you can keep your vine happy, it will reward you with delicious, purple treats.
Resources for Growing Organic Veggies & Herbs: